In the last few years, ride-share companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have exploded across the country. According to the Chicago Tribune, the number of registered vehicles for companies like Uber and Lyft, quadrupled from 2014 to 2017. Ride-shares involve drivers who are paid for transporting passengers in the driver’s own car at a reduced rate. Payment and booking rides happen through an app on your phone, making ride-share companies more convenient and less expensive than traditional taxis. But along with that convenience come some risks.
The Chicago Uber accident attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC are committed to holdings rideshare companies accountable when their drivers' negligence results in an accident with injuries to passengers or other motorists. If you or a family member was injured in a car accident involving an Uber vehicle, we encourage you to contact our office for a free review of your legal options for recovery.
Below is some information that you may find useful when investing or litigating an Uber accident claim in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois.
1. Limited Insurance Coverage
Drivers hired by Uber, and other ride-share companies, are hired as independent contractors. They sign an agreement stating that they will follow the applicable traffic laws, but they are not employees of Uber. This means that Uber does not screen its drivers to ensure that they carry the necessary level of insurance coverage for a commercial driver. Additionally, the third-party liability insurance policies, that ride-share companies maintain to cover their drivers, have strict monetary limits.
2. Rushed and Distracted Drivers
To pay its drivers, Uber shares the profits from each ride with the individual drivers. And, while the cost of each ride is based on distance, an Uber drivers’ total pay for each day is based in part on the number of rides completed within the shortest period of time. The result? Passengers and bystanders are more likely to become the victims of a speeding Uber.
The City of Chicago also regulates ride-shares to the extent that they can. In Chicago, a ride-share driver can’t exceed 10 hours of online time in a 24 hour period. (9 ILCS 115-190). However, Uber drivers are required to utilize the Uber app on their smartphone every time they call a passenger, reroute a location, accept a new passenger or change settings. This results in a distracted driver who is routinely taking his hands off the wheel and averting his eyes from the road.
How can I Protect Myself in a Chicago Uber?
Rideshare drivers in Chicago are required to obtain a chaffeur’s Transportation Network Providers chaffeur’s licence and to follow a number of Chicago-specific rules. (See 9 ILCS 115). Among these requirements are displaying their company emblem in the passenger side window. Rideshare drivers must also always carry proper paperwork, including their valid Illinois driver’s licence, TNP Chauffer’s License, Uber or Lyft ID, a copy of their auto insurance, their latest inspection report and their TNP terms of service agreement. (9 ILCS 115-150, -170). You can ask to see any of these.
Rideshare drivers must also have a special emblem in their rear window in order to pick up riders at any Chicago-area airport, McCormick Place and the Navy Pier. Drivers should display their Chicago TPN Chauffer’s License and Tax License on the passenger side dashboard. Finally, Chicago ride share drivers should have a number for complaints posted in the back seat where you can easily view it. (9 ILCS 115-150, -180). Drivers who don’t follow these regulations can face hefty fines and tickets.
Finally, if a driver’s use of a smart phone while driving is making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, ask him to stop. Your safety isn’t worth a five star rating on the Uber app.
Determining Liability in an Uber Accident
If you are injured as a passenger or bystander by a Chicago Uber or ride-share vehicle, determining liability for damages can be far more complicated than a typical one or two vehicle car crash. Because Uber drivers are independent contractors, they maintain their own insurance. And while your Uber driver may have a personal policy on her vehicle, personal policies don’t generally cover driving passengers for money. An Uber driver may have a separate commercial driving policy or rider, but this is not something you’ll know when you book a ride on the app.
In the early days of Uber, the company claimed that it did not need to maintain any insurance on behalf of its drivers because of their independent contractor status. Luckily, two early law suits forced this issue and Uber currently does provide third-party liability insurance for its drivers. Uber’s insurance, however, has limits. Coverage levels depend on whether the driver is waiting for a passenger, is on the way to pick up a passenger or already has a passenger in the car when the accident occurs.
Uber’s third-party liability insurance, for a driver waiting for a passenger, currently covers $50,000 for the driver's liability for bodily injury to one person, $100,000 per each accident, and $25,000 for property damage caused to others, an amount that often simply isn’t enough to cover medical bills and other damages. Coverage limits vary by state when a passenger is in the Uber or the driver is on her way to a passenger.
If your Uber driver does maintain insurance that applies to your accident, determining liability can become even more complicated. Sometimes the driver’s personal insurance must cover a small amount before Uber’s insurance kicks in. Your driver’s insurance may cover $20,000 in damages and then Uber’s insurance adjusters may negotiate and pay any remaining claims. Many times, the only way to recover from an Uber accident is to hire a skilled Chicago Uber attorney.
How can I Recover Damages From a Chicago Uber Accident When I was Injured?
Recovering compensation from an Uber accident often requires the skills of an experienced law firm who understands the rideshare industry. While Uber injury cases may be similar to other car accidents, complex insurance and common carrier issues make these cases unique. When you retain Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC, we will need to establish that:
- Even though the driver is an independent contractor, a claim can be made against the ride-share company as a third party also responsible for the accident.
- The insurance coverage for the ride-share service applies to passengers in the car.
- The passenger suffered a serious injury due to the negligence of the driver or others on the road.
If Uber’s third-party liability insurance coverage limits aren’t sufficient, your attorney will also need to investigate and prosecute an uninsured or underinsured motorist case against Uber.
Finally, in Illinois, if you are injured in a motor vehicle, you are entitled to pursue a cause of action against all parties that caused your accident. This means that if another driver was wholly or partially responsible for your accident, your attorney can file suit against the other driver as well.
What Kind of Damages can I Recover From a Chicago Uber Accident?
The specific types of damages you might recover in an Uber accident are similar to those from other car crashes. After proving causation, you can seek monetary damages for your current and future injuries from the accident. This might include:
- Medical expenses
- Physical therapy
- Lost income
- Attorney’s fees
- Disability accommodations for your home or car
- Medical devices
- Car rental fees
- Property damage
Although more difficult to ascertain, you may also be able to recover compensation for intangible losses such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of full life
In Illinois, your medical providers may obtain a lien on your accident recovery. Because car accident cases often conclude months or years after the initial medical treatment, this helps ensure that your medical providers will be paid from some part of a settlement or award. Under the Illinois Healthcare Services Lien Act (770 ILCS 23/10), the combined liens from healthcare providers cannot exceed 40% of your settlement or award. If they do, the lien amounts are capped.
Similarly, your auto, health or worker’s compensation insurance company may also have recovery rights to your settlement or award. These are called subrogation rights and they allow your insurance company to recover amounts they may have paid related to your injury. However, your insurance company must notify you ahead of time if they plan to claim subrogation rights and they must refund any deductible you’ve paid. Your attorney may be able to negotiate reduced subrogation amounts on your behalf or convince your insurance company to waive its subrogation rights.
What Should I do if I’m Injured in a Chicago Uber Accident?
- First, seek medical treatment and ensure that you don’t have any life-threatening injuries.
- If you’re able to, document the scene of the accident, the drivers involved, licenses and registration.
- Write notes of anything that you remember observing before and during the accident.
- Notify Uber. Let them know that you were a passenger involved in an accident with their driver and ask for insurance information for both your driver’s personal and Uber coverage.
- Contact an attorney. It’s always best to speak with an experienced Chicago Uber attorney before you attempt to contact any insurance company.
- Document all medical treatment, symptoms, medical expenses, lost work time and other damages.
Why do I Need an Attorney for my Chicago Uber Accident Claim?
Uber and ride-share accident claims are complicated, involving multiple insurance companies and often claims against multiple parties. While insurance companies are very willing to negotiate with accident victims, they will typically offer lower amounts or try to get you to settle for a lump sum before you know the full extent of your medical bills or other damages. Before speaking with an insurance adjuster, you should consult an experienced Uber accident attorney who can investigate the accident and evaluate your case. You don’t want to end up with multiple medical liens and no way to ensure that your claims will be paid.
RIL can help maximize the value of your case. Our attorneys are well-versed in negotiating with insurance companies for settlements involving vehicle operated by Uber and Lyft. We can also negotiate reduced medical liens and help maximize your recovery.
Contact Our Chicago Uber Accident Lawyers Today
The experienced Chicago Uber injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers have handled thousands of complex car crash cases and can help you determine your best course of action. Contact us today for a free initial consultation to discuss your claim. If we can’t help you, you don’t owe us anything. We don’t take a fee until we recover compensation on your behalf.